Q&A with Dr. Lynn Knope
Question: My preschool age child and I just moved to a new town where we don’t know many people. I know we both need to make friends, but I work full time so Mommy and Me type groups are out of the question. How can we both make new friends?
Dr. Knope: If you tend to be somewhat introverted, this can be a daunting task. Your level of introversion or extroversion will affect how you want to approach this dilemma. Some people are comfortable knocking on their neighbors’ doors to introduce themselves, and some people are not so inclined. Starting from a framework close to home and moving into your larger community is one way to consider the options of meeting new friends.
Your neighborhood is a great place to begin, as your neighbors are obviously readily accessible geographically. If you live in an apartment, visiting the common areas (like a playground or swimming pool) or just hanging out in the places where children are playing can create opportunities for meeting your neighbors. Or, if you live in a house, asking your neighbors which families nearby have young children and looking for homes that have play equipment in the yard and introducing yourself to these neighbors is a good place to start. Going for walks in the neighborhood in the evenings and on weekends can create the opportunity to stop and greet children and their parents who may be outside playing and/or doing yard work. Inviting neighbors to a barbecue or potluck in the common space in your apartment complex or local playground can be a way to meet and get to know other families as well as to encourage community at the same time.
Another way to meet other families is to go to your local park or swimming pool (indoor or outdoor), looking for opportunities to chat with other parents. Signing your child up for a structured class on a Saturday (swimming, gymnastics, art, science) is another way to meet other parents with children about the same age as yours. Noticing which children your child seeks out in his/her play at the local playground and greeting their parents can be fruitful. Some communities have structured play groups for working parents. And, some communities have organized groups who provide structured activities for single parents.
In the larger community, your child’s day care provider or preschool is another place where you might meet other parents with young children. Some programs offer support groups or activities for families. Some pediatricians offer lectures or classes for parents. And, churches can be as solid source of support for families. Libraries often offer programs, special events, and story hours. Cultural events in your community (like festivals and parades) can also create opportunities for families to meet. Other communities have babysitting co-ops, which provide babysitting exchanges between members. Most of the babysitting co-ops offer social opportunities as well.
If your community does not offer the kind of support that you are seeking, consider starting a group of your own. This can be done by posting a flyer at your local library, grocery store, or day care centers, or online through parenting websites or sites like MeetUp.com.
About the Author
Dr. Lynne Knope is a licensed psychologist specializing in treating children, families, and adults. She provides treatment for general mental health concerns, including those related to transition and grief. Her practice is located in the Clackamas area, just outside Portland, Oregon. In addition to a doctoral degree in psychology, she has a master’s degree in Special Education, and a portion of her practice includes providing services for individuals with special needs, including learning disabilities, autism, ADHD, and developmental concerns. She has served as the clinical director of Children Made Visible, a support program for children and families of the incarcerated; has worked at The Dougy Center, coordinating groups and providing training for support groups for children who have experienced the death of a family member; and has worked in community mental health clinics. Dr. Knope is both a step-parent and a biological parent, and she has children ranging from 15-34 years of age.